Monday, September 27, 2010

Imagining Atlantis

The Fall of Atlantis, by Monsu Desiderio, c. 1600s

We continue today with more imaginative visions and obscure histories!

Compared to artistic visions of the seven ancient wonders of the world, depictions of the lost city of Atlantis are rather rare. The one above comes from a somewhat obscure 17th century tradition known the capriccio - fantastical and often grotesque works that went outside the bounds of tradition and allowed artists to give their imaginations free reign.

Art historians long considered Monsu Desiderio to have been a pseudonym for two or three different artists who collaborated on such pre-surrealist fantasies. However, the following comes from artist John Coulhart's Web journal:

“Enigma” or “mystery” are the words usually associated with “Desiderio” (or even “Monsù Desiderio”), due to years of misattribution that made two obscure painters of the same period with similar styles appear to be a single artist. Until some fifty years ago, the identity of François de Nomé (ca. 1593–after 1634) was hidden by confusion with another contemporary painter from the Lorraine, Didier Barra (called “Monsù Desiderio”), whose work was at times disturbingly similar. In the 1930s, when the Surrealists were searching for forerunners, there was a revival of interest in Nomé, a painter most noted for fantastic architectures, eerily lit night scenes of the ruins of cities, and of catastrophic visions. He has continued to fascinate the modern mind for fifty years

You can read the rest here.

As a side note, my great grandfather, Ronald Alexander Edumnd Strath, aka Dr. A. E. Strath-Gordon, who was a spy for the British government and a lecturer on comparative mythology and the Great Pyramid, among other things, was one of the early searchers for the lost Atlantis. True story.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Colossus of Rhodes: Visions of a Vanished Wonder

The Colossus of Rhodes (1914) by the Spanish painter Antonio Muñoz Degrain (1840-1924).

One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes was a giant bronze statue of the Greek sun god Helios that towered over the busy harbor of the ancient Greek island of Rhodes.

The painting above by Degrain is an example of "history" painting - a staple of old-world art, in this case an imagined scene from mythology. An earthquake destroyed the Colossus in 226 BC, just over 50 years after it was built - so artists over the years have used their imaginations to picture how it might have looked.

Certainly it was big - at
107 feet high, it was the largest statue in the ancient world. A full-grown man couldn't get his arms around one of the fallen thumbs. The Oracle of Delphi advised against rebuilding it, so the pieces remained where they fell, visible all the way from the ships in the harbor, for the next 800 years, until the bronze was finally melted down and used elsewhere. That hasn't stopped artists from depicting it in the most delightful ways ever since.

"The brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land..." was a figment of the medieval imagination. It's been proved that something that big could never have straddled the harbor.

Stop-motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen said he used his memory of one these engravings, reproduced in a childhood book of classical mythology, when modeling a climactic moment for his bronze giant Talus in the film Jason and the Argonauts - a film near and dear to art historians, classicists, and fans of mythology, imaginative literature and fantasy cinema everywhere.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Corot: Painter's Painter

French 19th century painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's rural landscapes offered a freshness and spontaneity that seemed too experimental and unfinished to the taste-makers his time. But their lithe, sinuous lines and gauzy, atmospheric tonalities charmed admirers then as they do now.

Corot is a "painter's painter;" artists love him deeply and for different reasons.

One artist sees in him the "chaste" and "devout" pilgrim of Beauty, his canvases more like devotionals than landscapes. For another, who notes that “although a good Christian, he was not a bad Pagan Greek,” his work is dreamy, sensual, and earthy (one bitter rival even complained about how effortlessly the unmarried Corot seemed to charm his young models into his boudoir).

Corot is said to have had an unshakable contentment in life. The critic Edmond de Goncourt fumed that the painter was
the happy man par excellence. When he is painting, happy to paint; when he is not painting, happy to rest. Happy with his modest fortune before he inherited; happy with his inheritance when he inherited. Happy to live in obscurity when he was unknown; happy with his successes
Yet there's something quiet and singular in these paintings, despite the artist's habitual cheer. Rightly, I think, Roger Kimball points to "a quality of fathomless silence in many of Corot’s paintings, an essential stillness that impresses one as contemplative or quietly melancholic by turns."

Dismissing concern about his possible loneliness without a mate, Corot pointed to the key that unlocks the mystery of his happiness: “I have only one goal in life that I want to pursue faithfully: to make landscapes."

He found his work, loved it, and stayed faithful to what he loved. If he teaches us nothing else, let it be that.

For more on Corot, check out the recent posts by the prolific and faithful blogger and professional landscapist Stapleton Kearns, to whom credit must go for this selection of Corot's paintings.

Monday, September 20, 2010

John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885-86

Reeling from a front-page scandal that almost derailed his career, the American painter John Singer Sargent spent the summer of 1885 healing his wounds in England. Though he was fantasizing about starting a new life in music or business, he saw a vision that ignited every fiber of his creative being: a
child’s face lit by a paper lantern in a garden at dusk.

Sargent touched off the firestorm in Paris with his notorious “Portrait of Madame X.” It’s hard to believe that a lady’s evening-gown with a loose shoulder strap could so infuriate the French; in reality, the scandal had more to do with the opulence, the haughty indifference, and the corpse-like pallor of the model. Sargent’s brush had said the one thing that everyone knew but that no one wanted said: high-society Paris wallowed in decadence and malaise.

Across the channel, where society routinely shrugged off Parisian scandals-du-jour, Sargent picked up a string of tame portrait commissions and fretted about how he was going to pay the Paris studio’s rent. Visiting a friend’s enclave of well-to-do Bohemians in the country, Sargent soothed his nerves playing lawn games with his guests and their children amid herb-scented twilights in wild gardens filled with giant roses, lilies, and poppies, all bathed in a soft golden light. At evening gatherings he played popular songs on the piano, including a favorite that year with a lyric that went “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.”

According to Deborah Davis’s wonderful account in Strapless, “this song, the sight of the children playing in the garden, and the memory of Chinese lanterns along the Thames at twilight inspired a painting” that Sargent would only paint from life, working every evening only for the two or three minutes or so when the light was just right.

“Every day for weeks," Davis writes, "just before sunset, Sargent would drop his tennis racket, gather his canvas, paints, and young models, and head for the garden. He would work for [between two and 20] minutes - the brief period of perfect light - to catch the magic transition of late afternoon into evening. When the sun had set, Sargent and his friends would cary the oversized canvas to its resting place to await the next twilight."

Study of Polly Barnard for
'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose'
c. 1885

Perhaps unwilling to let go of his lifeline to paradise, Sargent took two years to complete the painting, storing the unfinished canvas in his host's barn for the winter. He would call the painting Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.

I think a good part of its magic resides in the stillness of the two girls standing quietly side by side, each absorbed in the process of lighting her lantern with a long wax taper. I've seen my three-year-old and his friends play like that many times - they're "together" but also solitary and apart.

It's the orange light reflected on the faces that I remembered most about this image after not seeing it for a while. Amid the cool colors of the garden, the warm glow of the firelight tints their faces, and we feel as though we're being admitted to the secret world of children. What an antidote to the clamor of fashion and the arrogant demi-mondes of Parisian society! The painting was an instant hit in London (it's still there, by the way, at the Tate), and Sargent's career as a painter was saved.

The John Singer Sargent online gallery has this to say:

“The idea (a purely fanciful one to be sure) was to capture, not the most perfect sunset, but the affect of the most perfect sunset has, in terms of color, shadows and light on a scene. But it was more than that. How about the artificial light of Chinese lanterns at the precise moment of twilight when lanterns and sun are at perfect equilibrium! -- Could he paint that magical transient moment that lasts no more than a couple of minutes most -- capture that most perfect color of mauve when the sun is still flush in the sky and the lanterns glowing equally? Not create the scene from his mind or memory of what it would or should look like, but actually capture it -- could he paint the exquisite beauty between those two minutes?

Of course not. No one could paint in two minutes and even come close to a faithful adaptation no matter how prepared he or she was prior. But what if he painted only for those magical minutes every day? If he was faithful, if he kept true to the principles of Impressionism -- painting only what he saw and not what he thought he saw or wanted to see, if he did it every day for two minutes could he capture lightning in a bottle so to speak?

It was silly, but the idea was hatched in a community of people that weren't constrained by the blinders of convention. These were people who could see things that weren't and ask why not? Sargent was going to do the impossible and they were all going to help!

He started off by using Mrs. Millet's young daughter who was only 5 at the time. They put a wig on her to lighten her hair and then propped the poor thing up as if she were lighting a Chinese lantern. Everyone in the community took an interest, but the demands of maintaining an exact pose every day proved to be too much; so in her place Mrs. Barnard's two girls stepped in of a more appropriate age of seven and eleven. 

Edmund Gosse wrote: "The progress of the picture, when once it began to advance, was a matter of excited interest to the whole of our little artist-colony. Everything was used to be placed in readiness, the easel, the canvas, the flowers, the demure little girls in their white dresses, before we began our daily afternoon lawn tennis, in which Sargent took his share. But at the exact moment, which of course came a minute or two earlier each evening, the game was stopped, and the painter was accompanied to the scene of his labors.

Study of Polly Barnard for 'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose,' c. 1885

Instantly, he took up his place at a distance from the canvas, and at a certain notation of the light ran forward over the lawn with the action of a wag-tail, planting at the same time rapid dabs of paint on the picture, and then retiring again, only with equal suddenness to repeat the wag-tail action. All this occupied but two or three minutes, the light rapidly declining, and then while he left the young ladies to remove his machinery, Sargent would join us again, so long as the twilight permitted, in a last turn at lawn tennis" (Sir Edmund Gosse letter to Charteris , P74-75).

"The seasons went from August till the beginning of November "Sargent would dress the children in white sweaters which came down to their ankles, over which he pulled the dresses that appeared in the picture. He himself would be muffled up like an Artic explorer."

Of course, by then, the flowers had faded and died, so artificial roses were ordered and wired to the withered branches. But who would suspect such time and effort? At its heart Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is very much a moment only - a rare and perfect one, though with every hallmark of accident and chance. It's as if we too had been invited to enjoy those lovely evenings in that fairytale garden and had happened to glance over a shoulder at the chance moment that distilled its full store of sweetness and spontaneity.

All this, and it is for everyone, and it lasts for all time.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekend Update

The art history posts I write here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday take up all the time I can devote to my blog during the week. However, I also want to occasionally share news and views related to my work as a painter. Hence a new feature: weekend updates.

So here is a recently completed painting that I'm calling Lamprey River, Dusk. This came out of an oil painting class I'm offering through the Cornerstone Gallery in Newmarket, NH on Wednesday nights. We perched our easels on a floating dock around 6:45 p.m. and raced to capture the effects of the lights and shadows as the evening drew down around us.

I've got a one-night show (and complimentary wine tasting - yes!) coming up in Boston on Tuesday the 28th at the Liberty Hotel, so I'm working to add a few fresh pieces to the selection I've already set aside. I want to put together a show in which all of the pictures work with each other and contribute to a strong, coherent effect as a whole.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Botticelli: Graces Redux

One shouldn't leave the topic of the Three Graces in painting without a nod to Botticelli, the Renaissance painter whose Birth of Venus and Primavera poetically capture the essence of the age.

Botticelli, Primavera, 1482, tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

Renaissance painters reintroduced accurate perspective to pictorial art (the ancient Greeks were close to perfecting it, but the collapse of the classical world at the fall of Rome, c. 460 AD., buried the knowledge for more than 1,000 years). Italian painters rediscovering Graeco-Roman antiquity were all about celebrating the human, rather than the supernatural, divine, and this included the science of how the world looks to the eye.

Botticelli, Birth of Venus, 1485, tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

Botticelli's work has all the humanism without the obtrusive science. By keeping the essence of the representation of real space but rejecting the technical display of scientific perspective, Botticelli expressed his sense of the beautiful through an emphasis on proportion and a flowing use of line.

Other painters courted the astonishing effects possible with the new medium of oil paint, created novel effects of perspective, or incorporated new anatomical knowledge of the human body and other scientific discoveries in ever-more believable and fully developed three-dimensional forms.
The "Capitoline Venus" from
the Medici family collection
that served as the model for
Botticelli's Venus

Botticelli's forms are more classical and elegant than "accurate" or "scientific" (but what's "accurate" for the representation of a goddess?!), and his colors are lovely but quite subdued. Botticelli worked poetic magic through line, reinforced by strong contrasting values of light and dark.

The Birth of Venus motif (Aphrodite on the Half Shell - in mythology she was born of the ocean foam and wafted to shore on a shell) allows us to revisit Odilon Redon as well, whose strange and sensuous pastel of 1912 is reproduced below.

Comparing Redon's flush of iridescent pink and Botticelli's far more chaste color handling as well as a visual pairing on Tarot Teachings of the design by Pamela Smith for one of the cards in the Rider-Waite tarot deck makes the beautiful linearity of Botticelli's presentation very clear.

Botticelli's graces are about spring, new beginnings, regeneration, rebirth, and the continuity of the best the human spirit has to offer with the most inspiring achievements of the past. How appropriate then the meaning of the card: friends, prosperity, happiness and the enjoyment of life, be linked to a place and time in history when a new sense of humanity's potential emerged in the world like a sudden revelation - generating some of the greatest and most beautiful artwork the world has seen, before or since.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moreau: Creativity as Daimonic Force

Gustave Moreau, Oedipus and the Sphinx, 1864

The sensual monster stares bewitchingly into the hero's eyes, pressing her bare breasts against his torso, pinning him to the stone. Oedipus stares back, his frown, and calm, unflinching gaze presaging his ability to solve the riddle of the nature of man.

Nineteenth-century French Symbolist Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) created surreal, dreamlike paintings that draw us into their worlds through their dynamic compositions, elaborate detail, and believable textures. Moreau designed Oedipus and the Sphinx on a tilted, diagonal axis defined by the bodies and Oedipus's staff, from which the sphinx's intricate wings stab toward the sky on the left side balanced by an intricately detailed jar in the lower right corner. The design suggests an "x" that crosses in the painting's center, emphasizing the interlocking of the characters - mankind and the Mystery - in an existential embrace.

Moreau gave us more than fantasies - he gave us worlds in which to become lost, worlds that suggest the hallucinatory, half-substantial outposts of our own.

In his depiction of the poet and the muse (above), Moreau presents Plato's concept of the creative Muse as a genius or "daimon," that is, agent of the gods, responsible for artistic creation. The poet's eyes are closed and the Muse moves her fingers across the instrumental strings. The Renaissance replaced this notion of the "genius" as a spirit that visits the artist from Beyond with the idea that the artist him or herself is the genius, which some are now seeing as a damaging ego-based concept that kills creativity with too much pressure.

A recent talk by Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert has surprised everybody by making a compelling case for revisiting this antiquated notion of how creativity happens. In a talk she gave at the TED conferences, she suggested that creative power is related to the lack of self-consciousness in the work, that is, to our ability to evade the left-brain censor and create freely, without narcissism or expectation of ability.

For working writers, artists, and musicians, this means being able to tap into the "beginner-mind" one has in the earliest encounters with a medium, the unself-consciousness that children have (why kids love art), the freedom one has when "just playing." You can watch her TED talk here.
Gustave Moreau, Apollo and the Muses, 1856

Who hasn't been "taunted and haunted by the glimmer of something extraordinary" and suddenly stepped into a portal where time doesn't exist and the brain chatter stops and the possibilities are infinite, whether in conversation, poetry, athletics, painting, singing, playing music, or dancing?

She talks of Sufi dancers who often (though not always) reach a moment of ecstasy. "And when this happened, people knew it for what it was," she said. "They called it by its name. They’d put their hands together and would start to chant Allah, Allah. ‘God, God.’"

"If you never happen to believe in the first place that the most extraordinary aspects of your being [were created by you]," she said, you’d be better off. "Maybe if you just believe that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life, which you pass along when you’re finished to somebody else," it would change everything.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Raphael: The Three Graces

Beheld with eyes fully open, earthly beauty becomes divine; the visions of saints and prophets live and breathe before us, and the warm, living bodies of the lovers in our arms trade places with celestial angels, goddesses, and gods.

The great Renaissance painter Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio de Urbino) had youth, polish, charm, intelligence, wit, charisma, good looks, a wealthy family that nurtured his artistic talent, an ability to network and make fast, influential friends, a genius for absorbing and synthesizing the purest classical elements of the great, eccentric Renaissance talents (Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo) and the skill to fuse "the best of the best" into immortal artwork as breathtakingly beautiful and original as any ever produced ... all delivered with an offhand grace that made it look easy. Raphael was a rock star. In 16th century Florence and Rome, he went from lavish court party to lavish court party accompanied by a starstruck entourage of fashionable admirers (read: groupies).

And Raphael loved women (perhaps too much so; making love to a particularly possessive patron's wife apparently got him killed while still in his thirties). The secret power of his many Madonnas (portraits of the mother Mary) lies in how much they are really just beautiful young Italians. A more sophisticated reading of the situation might suggest that Raphael's work reflects the age's duality of earthly and divine beauty, Christian and (Christianized) pagan themes.

Perhaps that's part of the otherworldly charm of his The Three Graces (1504). The theme is pagan (the Graces come from Greek mythology), but the iconography is Christian (the church gave the Graces a pass as they could be made to stand for Christian virtues such as Faith, Hope, and Charity). But the beauty here is all about, on the one hand, the sensuality of the female nude, and on the other, idealized classical balance, as well as the desire to keep all of these balls in the air.
The painting's design contains a counterpoint of circular forms (the circular arrangement of the figures, the polished spheres (apples?) that they hold, and the gently bowed heads of the three women contemplating the spheres). But the composition attains its classical sense of proportion, symmetry, and above all balance, largely through the woman whose back is turned towards us - she is centered vertically and horizontally in the picture, and her bent arms resemble the mechanism of a hand-scale (as well as a cross?!).

The painting seems to balance the riddles of beauty, love, sex, and the sacred in equal measure - even if only in an ideal dream of perfect, interlocking forms, lasting only just long enough for a glimpse of the eternal, within the brief, earthly duration of our seeing.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rembrandt: The Philosopher

The subject of Rembrandt's unforgettable Philosopher In Meditation (1632) is interior space, both physical and mental. In his smoldering "old master" color palette (ochres, i.e. earth tones), Rembrandt brings us into communion with the essence of thoughtful meditation.

The whorl of the staircase amid the shadows and the golden window-light streaming in and illuminating the darkness where the philosopher sits in solitude, deep in thought, suggest the glowing flame of inward contemplation. The stairs themselves disappear at the top into the dim Portal of the unknown; the philosopher's task is to ascend and to venture ever higher, bringing light to banish the dark.

The painting's design is really comprised of two overlapping spheres (completed and overlapping at the twisting stairs) almost like a yin-yang symbol of difference joined in unity.

In the lower right corner, a servant tends the fire (which on the symbolic level produces the illumination that leads to truth) without which the philosopher would not be able to stay warm. I would associate the servant with the physical world and with the body.

In the (literal and symbolic) "higher sphere" then, the philosopher occupies the idealized position of metphysics and the mind.

Rembrandt's composition seems to imply that both are intertwined with each other, and both are needed.

It could not have been the artist's intention, but I have always seen in the spiral staircase the suggestion of the double helix of the DNA molecule strand. It isn't necessary for my enjoyment or understanding of this work, but the thought does enhance for me the painting's ability to stand for the effort of human intellect to reflect on the interior mysteries of human existence - the province not just of the philosopher but of us all.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Strangeness in the Proportion

Odilon Redon, The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity, 1879

"There is no exquisite beauty," as Poe reminds us, in Ligeia, "without some strangeness in the proportion..."

This is Odilon Redon's The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity. It's a work of 19th century Symbolism, some would say.

Art bears aloft the inarticulate, whether we will or no.

Like musical instruments
Abandoned in a field
The parts of your feelings

Are starting to know a quiet
The pure conversion of your

Life into art seems destined

Never to occur
You don't mind

You feel spiritual and alert

As the air must feel
Turning into sky aloft and blue

You feel like

You'll never feel like touching anything or anyone

And then you do

Redon was a quiet, reclusive artist who at first worked a dark symbolic magic in charcoal (finding work illustrating translations of Poe) and then, after his marriage and a move to the country, celebrated mystery in triumphant, but no less mystical, pastels.

Mary Jo Bang's written an inconclusive, post-modern poem inspired by the balloon image.

Artists are people driven nearly against their will to express they know not what by whatever means at their disposal. The amazing part is that such a personal mystery unfolds as an expression not just of an individual but of an age, and the best, for all time.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Vision of Truth

Jules Bastien-Lepage, Joan of Arc, 1879

Sometimes a painting can stop you cold and hold you like a witch's spell.

That's what this one did to me as a teenager meandering through the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I was there to see 20th century modernism, but some of the historical paintings called to me as well, planting seeds unknown that would root and flower decades later. I'm analyzing the painting in today's post at my wife Anna's request.

It's Joan of Arc by Jules Bastien-Lepage, a nineteenth-century French painter who, if not for this work, would be unknown in our country at this moment in time. It's big - nine feet by eight feet, so it makes a major impact when you view it in person. This is neither a landscape nor a portrait; it's a "history painting" that the French Academy would have approved for the annual salon (meaning the painting would actually be seen by the public).

It's the look on the figure's face that stops us in our tracks.

Those eyes are intense! Her face betrays little identifiable emotion, yet she gazes with a fiery concentration at ..... what? Nothing in the painting, that's for sure. She's positioned way over to the right and looking outside the frame, over our heads. Her body language (the slack right arm, relaxed shoulders, and mild counterpoise in her motionless torso) betrays a passivity and rootedness that contradicts the intensity. With a gaze like that, shouldn't she be straining toward what she sees? Until I became more familiar with the legend of Joan of Arc, the intensely religious "Maid of Orleans," it never occurred to me that she might be listening to something.

This is Joan experiencing the revelation of her destiny. She told her father that she saw visions and heard voices telling her to fight for France against the invading English. In one vision, she saw three saints, St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret, who told her she was appointed by heaven to aid Prince Charles VII of France, who'd actually wear the crown as the result of her rallying the French troops and spooking the English. The ungrateful King would later refuse her pleas to return home. Finally Joan was captured and sold as a prisoner of war by the Duke of Burgundy to the English, who burned her at the stake. It took another ten years for Charles to publicly recognize her service and declare her "a martyr to her religion, her country, and her king."

It's only after our eyes begin to wander this painting's densely patterned background that we see amid the tangle of fruit trees and garden vegetation the semi-transparent figures of the three saints, emerging half-invisible against the wall of the rude peasant hut. To see this, have a look at a high res image here. For a while, I thought the divine vision was appearing to Joan off-camera, and that the figures hovering in the foliage represented her own vision of the stages of her destiny - dressed in armor and later made an angel and a saint. But a closer look finds all three of the divine personages in attendance, the third concealed in the trailing folds of Saint Catherine's iridescent robe.

For Joan's figure, clothing, and face, Lepage drew numerous preparatory studies of the milkmaids and country workers' daughters from Joan's rural hometown region. The accuracy with which the artist captured real physical traits generated by that particular gene pool did not go unnoticed by critics. But it's the look on her face - her great and melancholy seeing of the whole and sacred force and import of her thankless place in history - that makes it unforgettable. The painting perfectly balances the human with the other-worldy divine.

"Nothing in painting has ever moved me like the Jeanne d'Arc of Bastien-Lepage. . .there is something indescribably mysterious and marvelous about it. There you have a sentiment which the artist has thoroughly understood, the perfect and intense expression of a great inspiration, -something great and human, inspired and divine at the same moment, in fact what it actually was, and what no one before him had ever understood. Only think of all the Jeanne d'Arcs that have been painted before! Good Heavens! why they are as common as Ophelias and Gretchens! But in this incomparable artist you find what is only to be found in the sacred art of Italy, in the days when men believed in what they painted." - Marie Bashkirtseff